Duncan Steel

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Steel Duncan

Professor of Biophysics, Physics, and Electrical Engineering & Computer Science

Lab Address: 4235 Randall

Office Location(s): 3202 Chemistry
Phone: 734.936.2143
Steel Group Home Page

  • About

    Professor Steel directs the Biomolecular Laser Spectroscopy Laboratory jointly with Professor Gafni from Biological Chemistry. Research using advanced laser spectroscopy techniques is designed to provide insight into fundamental questions associated with protein structure and dynamics and related issues including protein-protein and protein-DNA interactions and the general problem of biomolecular recognition. Experiments and designed to explore the nature of structural changes that occur as a result, for example, of aging, or other factors that lead to well known diseases such as Alzheimer's, cystic fibrosis and mad cow. Recent work includes their development of new laser techniques which enabled the group to discover that some proteins undergo structural changes following synthesis and biological activation in ways that were not detected by other methods. The groups primary laser based experimental approach is based on single molecule spectroscopy. Current work is now focusing specifically on understanding the origin of cellular toxicity in amyloidogenic diseases including Alzheimer's and type 2 diabetes. These diseases are characterized by protein deposits (plaques, etc) in the target tissue. The historical hypothesis has been that these deposits are the origin of the pathology. However, recent results suggest that the origin of cellular toxicity arises from the formation of small oligomers a long time before for the formation of the deposits. The small oligomers have been hypothesized to permeabilize the cellular membrane, leading to cell death. Studying the oligomers by conventional means is extremely challenging because they are highly heterogeneous, occur in small concentrations and have only a short life. Single molecule spectroscopy is perfect for the study of these structures. Our work is aimed at following the development of these oligomers and correlating the structure with the onset of cellular interactions and cell death.

  • Education
    • University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill A.B. 1972
    • University of Michigan Ph.D. 1976
  • Research Areas of Interest
    • Atomic, Molecular, Optical Physics
  • Selected Publications:
  • Articles